Maryland Independent - - News - Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

When an ac­cu­sa­tion in­volv­ing a mi­nor is made against an em­ployee, the school prin­ci­pal con­tacts the stu­dent’s par­ents to re­view the ac­cu­sa­tion and in­ves­ti­ga­tion process. De­pend­ing on the na­ture of the charges, the school sys­tem re­ports the in­ci­dent first to the Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices, then to the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

“As school em­ploy­ees, we are bound by law to re­port any­thing that we think is sus­pected abuse of a child,” O’Mal­ley-Simp­son said. “Any in­ci­dent that could pos­si­bly be child abuse, we have to re­port im­me­di­ately.”

The school sys­tem also con­ducts its own in­ves­ti­ga­tion once DSS and law en­force­ment agen­cies have com­pleted their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said Melissa Drons­field, CCPS staff re­la­tions case man­ager.

“We don’t con­duct our own ad­min­is­tra­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­til DSS ad­vises we can pro­ceed, as well as the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice ad­vises us they have com­pleted their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Drons­field said.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion from CCPS, in the 2016-17 school year, there were 21 in­ves­ti­ga­tions in­volv­ing stu­dents, and nine in­ves­ti­ga­tions that were not re­lated to stu­dents.

Drons­field said an ad­min­is­tra­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­ducted even if there are no find­ings from DSS and no charges.

Mary­land law re­quires school sys­tems to keep cer­tifi­cated em­ploy­ees on paid sta­tus un­til all in­ves­ti­ga­tions are con­cluded and the su­per­in­ten­dent rec­om­mends ter­mi­na­tion to the board of ed­u­ca­tion. Non-cer­tifi­cated em­ploy­ees are sub­ject to the dis­cre­tion of the su­per­in­ten­dent and her de­signee, the hu­man re­sources depart­ment, Drons­field said.

“Our first con­cern is the safety of stu­dents, so once an al­le­ga­tion is made, they are re­moved from any con­tact with stu­dents, from any school,” O’Mal­ley-Simp­son said.

Teach­ing po­si­tions will be filled by long-term sub­sti­tute teach­ers, O’Mal­ley-Simp­son said.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, Bell was dis­cov­ered to have sent in­ap­pro­pri­ate text mes­sages to a stu­dent at La Plata High School, where he served as a track coach. When po­lice no­ti­fied CCPS of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion in De­cem­ber

2016, Bell was placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave and in­structed not to have con­tact with stu­dents or stu­dent ath­letes.

Bell was tem­po­rar­ily re­as­signed to the Jesse L. Starkey Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing — the school sys­tem’s head­quar­ters — in Jan­uary

2017, but was fired when he failed to show up, ac­cord­ing to school sys­tem in­for­ma­tion.

If the school sys­tem re­ceives re­ports of crim­i­nal charges against em­ploy­ees that do not in­volve mi­nors, O’Mal­ley-Simp­son said any de­ci­sion to re­tain or dis­miss the em­ployee

will be made on a case by case ba­sis by the Of­fice of Hu­man Re­sources and the su­per­in­ten­dent, with ap­proval from the board of ed­u­ca­tion in the case of teach­ers and other cer­tifi­cated em­ploy­ees.

The course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions can take months or even a year or more,

Drons­field said.

If charges are filed, the em­ployee would still re­main in their tem­po­rary as­sign­ment un­til their case has been ad­ju­di­cated.

If no charges are filed, or if a not guilty ver­dict is reached, the em­ployee may re­turn to their orig­i­nal po­si­tion.

“If every­one agrees it’s un­founded, you prob­a­bly would re­turn to your po­si­tion,” O’Mal­ley-Simp­son said. “You’d look at it on a case-by-case ba­sis; some­times it might not be a good thing to send them back to the same school.”

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